Many of you may know me as an entrepreneur, but my background is actually SEO. Although I follow the rules these days, I am known to have dabbled in the dark arts of SEO. But don’t worry, this post isn’t on SEO ethics or whether you should be a black- or white-hat SEO.
From my experience in both the black- and white-hat world of SEO, I have learned what you should avoid if you don’t want your rankings to tank.
Common mistake #1: You can be rich, but not filthy rich…in anchor text
The best way to boost your rankings is to build rich anchor text links. For example, if my startup KISSmetrics wants to rank well for the term “web analytics,” I need to get other websites to link to KISSmetrics.
When convincing these sites to link to me, I ideally want them to link with the phrase web analytics as the link text instead of my company name, KISSmetrics.
If more people link to you with the keyword you want to rank for as the anchor text of the link, your rankings will start skyrocketing for that keyword.
But what you may not know is that if you get too many links rich in anchor text, your rankings will drastically drop after a while. So, you have to rotate the anchor text and ideally make it natural.
In essence, having rich anchor text is good, but it can’t be too rich. I usually try to keep my anchor text rich for less than 10% of my links.
Common mistake #2: Don’t ignore internal pages
When you are optimizing your website for search engines, although it’s common for you to optimize the code on all pages of your website, for some reason you tend to forget about building links to your internal pages.
Your homepage is important, but having 100% of your links going to your homepage is really unnatural.
I personally try to make sure that 80% of my links, if not more, are going to internal pages. And the best way to do this is to make sure your internal pages have really good content.
What you’ll notice when your internal pages start to get more links, the ranking of your homepage will also start going up. It’s because search engines don’t just try to evaluate where you should rank on a page-by-page basis, but they also look at your website as a whole. This is why sites like About.com and Wikipedia rank for millions of terms.
Common mistake #3: Slow and steady really does win the race
You have heard that phrase millions of times, but do you follow it? I know, I don’t always.
Let’s go back to my previous example of the anchor text “web analytics.” Before I start building links, not only do I have to look at how many backward links I already have, but I also need to look at how many links my competitors have.
For example, if my competition on average has over 100,000 links when I only have 1,000, my first instinct may be to build links really fast and catch up. In an ideal world, that would work, but it isn’t the case with Google.
- Don’t try to grow your link count by double or triple each month. Try to stick with a smaller percentage like 5% or 10%.
- Don’t aim to build a ton of links, but instead build relevant links as they will move your rankings a lot faster.
- Stay away from all page links. Although they can easily be bought, it’s unnatural that someone would link to your website from every page unless you have a blog (blogrolls).
I know, doing the things I mentioned above won’t get you to the same link count as your competition’s, but you will start increasing your rankings drastically.
Don’t fall into the trap of building links quickly. Although your rankings will go up in the short run, it’s hard to maintain your rankings once you get to the top. You’ll start noticing way too many fluctuations compared to a nice steady increase you get from building relevant links slowly.
Common mistake #4: Content isn’t always king
Have you heard the saying that content is king? It usually is, but if you don’t have enough links coming into your website, you won’t get much traffic.
What I mean by this is that search engines analyze how many links you have coming into your website compared to how much content you have. So, if you only have 100 links while having a million pieces of content, a lot of those pages won’t get indexed in Google unless you get more sites to link to yours.
Sadly, I don’t know the exact ratio of content versus links that you should have, but I just recommend building up your content and links at the same time. If you don’t, your search engine traffic may stall.
Common mistake #5: Title tags and meta descriptions do matter
During all the years I have been doing SEO, I have noticed one commonly repeated mistake. You take title tags and meta description tags for granted.
Now, before I go into the simple title tag and meta description optimization techniques I use, I want to ask you one favor: don’t take them for granted. I used these simple tactics on sites like Gizmodo, TechCrunch, Mashable, and around 30 other of the top 100 blogs on the Internet and saw their traffic go up drastically.
- Your title tags have to be unique on every page and around 60 characters.
- Do not include your website name in all of your title tags as this makes them seem duplicate. Just include your website name in the title tags for your homepage, about page, contact page, and other generic pages.
- Your meta description tag needs to be unique, represent the content on the page (don’t just stuff it with keywords), and contain around 25 or so words.
Try making those changes to your title tags and meta descriptions. If you already have a good number of links coming into your website matched by a decent number of pages, you’ll notice that those changes can double your traffic like it did for TechCrunch. But if you don’t have that much traffic or links coming in, you won’t notice a big impact in your search engine traffic.
There are a lot of SEO tactics that you can use to increase your rankings, but be careful when choosing them. Although you’ll notice your rankings going up in the short run, in the long run, they can start going down. And before you figure it out, it’ll be too late.
Do you know of any other tactics that can crush your rankings?
P.S. If you want to learn more about SEO, I highly recommend reading this beginner’s guide.